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Mexican president defends armed forces in missing students case

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Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Thursday pushed back against accusations that the armed forces had hindered an investigation into the 2014 disappearance of 43 student teachers, but vowed to find out what had happened to the youths.

Lopez Obrador took office in 2018 promising to clear up the notorious case that sparked international outcry against his predecessor, yet rights advocates fear that goal may remain out of reach by the time his term ends late next year.

The Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), a panel that has monitored the troubled investigation, said in a final report this week that Mexican security forces were complicit in the September 2014 abduction of students from Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in the southwestern state of Guerrero.

The experts also accused the military of withholding information, an allegation that Lopez Obrador rejected.

“It’s not true the Navy and the Army aren’t helping,” he told a press conference. “If progress has been made, it’s precisely because of the cooperation of the Navy and the Army.”

He said 115 people have been detained, including two generals and a former top prosecutor, and a “pact of silence” around the crime has been broken, shedding light on events.

“What’s most important now is the search (for the missing youths),” Lopez Obrador said.

The remains of only three of the 43 students have so far been formally identified.

Parents of the missing students urged Lopez Obrador to use his power to put more pressure on the military.

“The president has to order them to hand over the information,” said Mario Gonzalez, father of one of the youths.

The Mexico office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights backed the GIEI’s findings and said in a statement it regretted the “armed forces have not provided all the information requested by the GIEI” needed to resolve the case.

Related Galleries:

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gestures as he speaks during the delivery of an investigation report with relatives of the 43 missing students of the Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College, marking the 6th anniversary of their disappearance, at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico September 26, 2020. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido/File Photo

Carlos Martin Beristain and Angela Buitrago, members of the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), attend the last press conference on the 43 missing students of the Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College, in Mexico City, Mexico July 25, 2023. REUTERS/Raquel Cunha/File Photo
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